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Forget the maths, Beale's the standout number

Date

John Eales

Both lucid and frugal ... Kurtley Beale has blossomed in the No.10 role.

Both lucid and frugal ... Kurtley Beale has blossomed in the No.10 role. Photo: Quinn Rooney

It seems to be that time of year when Super Rugby coaches turn to their ability as mathematicians as much as their knowledge of rugby.

The various permutations and complications of whether or not they will make the playoffs, combined with the fact you need more than an average abacus to navigate your way around the restrictions of salary caps and budgets, create a complex environment.

Of course the calculations demanded by the Chiefs, Bulls, Brumbies and Stormers require less intellect than the maths confronting the Reds, Waratahs and Sharks.

And at this point, sadly for their supporters, there's no need to go beyond basic extremities when doing the sums for the Lions, Force and Blues. No amount of magic in the numbers can save their season.

Granted, the Waratahs have made it complicated for themselves with another narrow loss at the death, this time to the Bulls.

But given the vagaries of this competition, I wouldn't automatically assume they are out of the picture.

Despite suffering from a lack of experience, composure at key moments and depth in certain positions means they remain a possible, even if highly improbable, chance of making the playoffs.

As do the Reds who, despite playing their best rugby of the season to date, have also made it more difficult for themselves to qualify than it might have been.

Amid the calculations – just when it seems the maths and logic of the Aristotle, Archimedes and Adam Spencer types among us are taking over the season – sheer inspiration and the wonderful anti-logic of sport appears in the form of the Rebels, reminding us why we devote our hearts and minds to such pursuits in the first place.

The Rebels' awesome 28-19 victory over the Crusaders was more than just an upset. It was franchise defining.

Led by an at-times rabid “Stockade” crowd of more than 18,000, the Rebels played with the survival instincts of ownerless dogs scrapping for meat outside a butchery, combined with the group instinct of a pack of wolves. It's amazing how so much can change over a few weeks.

But make no mistake: this was the biggest day in the Rebels' short history; a victory over “the” side of Super Rugby, the Crusaders; a victory from which legends will be born and from which a new franchise came of age – and a victory allowing them to now close the chapter on their beginning and move to the next stage of their journey with more than reserved optimism.

Of course detractors might argue that this was an understrength Crusaders with the likes of Kieran Reid “rested” on the bench. But that's the nature of this competition and it doesn't account for the fact that their side included both Richie McCaw and Dan Carter (albeit both returning from injury but undoubtedly both still wielding their dominant psychological auras).

While it's useful to be a mathematician, sometimes, it is not so useful to be a logician (depending where you derive your logic, that is).

On some measures, the Rebels' victory could be considered a fluke.

Yet by other yardsticks, derived partly from last week's narrow loss to the Bulls, this was a worthy victory that had been under construction for some time.

Among their team, they had giants. Rodney Blake in the front line and Hugh Pyle right behind him had storming matches, as did Nick Phipps, playing his most authoritative game in two years.

Kurtley Beale was also a standout among many for the Rebels. While a certainty in any Wallaby team, the question arises on the position he should play.

It certainly seems that his prolonged stint at fullback for the Waratahs, Wallabies and Rebels has contributed to making him a better flyhalf. Perhaps this is because the fullback's eye scopes the world of possibilities from a global, rather than local, perspective.

Of all positions in the rugby rectangle, fullback takes in the gamut of patterns of the game like no other, which has allowed Beale to add guile to his genius.

He ran, passed and kicked at the appropriate times, being both lucid and frugal, even with the surfeit of possession he was afforded.

His form, along with the resurgence of the Reds through the likes of Will Genia, Luke Morahan and Scott Higginbotham in their euphoric 42-27 victory over the Chiefs, augers well for some more attractive numbers later in the Super Rugby and Test seasons.

24 comments so far

  • Another superbly crafted piece by the master on the field and now the master of rugby "prose" off it.

    Comparing the Rebels' forwards to a pack of ownerless, rabid dogs, scapping for morsels outside a butchery? Where does this guy get his images from? Marvellous, marvellous, stuff.

    And John is right to say the Rebels' performance was "franchise defining". They richly deserved to win that match, (no fluke there John) dominating it from start to finish with sheer guts and bloodymindedness. McCaw made the comment after the RWC that he could read defeat in the faces of the Wallabies from an early stage in that dreadful semi performance.

    How true but you could equally read defeat written all over the faces of McCaw, Carter and other Crusaders long before the conclusion of the Rebels' match. They were outmuscled, outgunned, and outpassioned by the Rebels "uneducated" rabble for the great majority of that match.

    I thought Neville was the standout lock, into everything and a great future prospect. Pyle pulled off that marvellous tackle but was less obvious than Neville elsewhere.

    Yes Beale looks good so far John but the acid test will be when he has less time and space against a world class test side like Wales. I would back Barnes with his rugby brain more at that level than Beale but time will tell.

    Commenter
    mick-e
    Date and time
    May 14, 2012, 4:14AM
    • Mate, so Wales will be a sterner test for Kurtley than the All Black laden Crusaders??? Sorry man, loved your blog, but having a big of a chuckle right now ;-)

      Commenter
      Lats
      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 8:42AM
    • Barnes and football brain is an oxymoron...Beale is a far superior player than him. Barnes' first instinct is to kick and Beale likes to run which makes for a better outcome, such as the results over the weekend.

      Commenter
      Les
      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 1:48PM
    • @ mick-e
      Don't get me wrong but you've gone and said it again...' a world class test side like Wales'.
      I'm not chasing you as to your opinion on Beale re- the blog when you invoked the 'Ed rule' of closing comments to me and @ juts (I think that's who it was) but I'm intrigued as to this description of Wales.
      I enjoy your blogs and opinions.
      My best rugby mate is Welsh and I know he can't help that but...
      Is there some lineage here maybe me olde dear ? Lmoa

      Commenter
      Machooka
      Location
      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      May 17, 2012, 3:13PM
    • I don't see where the problem is with describing Wales as world class?

      They were, for me, the stand out performers at the last world cup. Were unlucky to make the final, based on a fairly harsh red card early in the semi final.

      Had they made the final, I believe they were a very strong chance to beat an under performing all blacks.

      Commenter
      M
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 7:31AM
    • @ M
      Agree totally !
      I'm not saying that description is not deserved or wrong. In fact I rate them highly for a northern hemisphere team.
      Broken Ankles has produced a team that play a game, dare I say it, of the quality and style of our southern hemisphere teams.
      I had NO doubt that they would take the title of 6 Nations and defeat the old enemy England at Twick, something not done for many years.
      My inquirey was to @ mick-e and a possible connection to the pride of Wales.

      Commenter
      Machooka
      Location
      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 8:52AM
  • The big take away from the weekend was seeing how teams can perform when they really, and I mean really, want it. There have been articles written here in the past about passion being overstated as a instrument of success, but to me it is the defining characteristic of the winning side in each game. Super Rugby teams are so close these days in terms of ability, what set the Reds and Rebels apart from much more fancied opposition was the desire and desperation in each and every moment of the game. Australia can definitely compete and win against the best when they find that rabid dog mentality and bring it for 80 minutes.

    Commenter
    Morgan
    Location
    Hong Kong
    Date and time
    May 14, 2012, 10:00AM
    • Lats.

      Test match rugby is different to super rugby-more intense physically, more defensive and less time and space. I havent seen the wider AB squad yet but I doubt we have got to the Black Crusaders situation of some years ago.

      Commenter
      mick-e
      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 10:56AM
      • Mate.. agreed, but methinks Kurtley will go alright just the same :-)

        Commenter
        Lats
        Date and time
        May 15, 2012, 11:11AM
    • Kurtley Beale at fly-half has certainly transformed the Rebels, who may spring a few more surprises when O'Connor returns. I was very impressed by the performances of Pyle, Neville, Blake, Vuna and Jones during the past two games. The Reds were absolutely fantastic yesterday for whom Morahan has shown great improvement. Gill certainly looks to be a superstar of the future. The Brumbies have also unearthed a few talented individuals, which all auger well for the future of Australian Rugby. The only downside for me have been the performances of the Waratahs and Force, which have been pretty average. Both these sides will benefit from a change of coaching personnel and an injection of a few new players, especially talented fly-halfs. They have to be less reliant on stupid and aimless kicks, which invariably just hands the ball back to the opposition.

      Commenter
      Dekka
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 11:16AM

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